FAIRFIELD — The proposed budget for the 2017-2018 school year in School Administrative District 49 is just over $26.2 million, which is a 1.5 percent increase over the current school budget.

The proposed $26,202,792.84 budget, which would run from July 1 until June 30, 2018, includes a $387,251.85 increase over the current budget, which was more than $25.8 million. SAD 49 includes schools in Albion, Benton, Clinton and Fairfield.

During a brief budget workshop Tuesday night at Lawrence Junior High School in Fairfield, school board members had a chance to discuss the proposal, but few had questions. Finance committee chairwoman Jenny Boyden said the first draft of the budget from Superintendent of Schools Dean Baker had called for an 8 percent increase, which the committee was presented in March. Boyden said the initial proposal was “not reasonable,” so the committee asked for a smaller increase.

Baker then presented the committee with a budget with a roughly 2.5 percent increase, which Boyden said was not unreasonable. Given uncertainties with incoming state funding, however, the panel wanted to bring that number down more.

“We still felt the resulting increase to local municipalities would be unbearable,” she said.

To bring the overall increase down to a more palatable figure, more reductions were made.

Freshman sports teams would be eliminated in this latest budget, but Baker said opportunities still would exist for freshman students to play junior varsity and varsity sports, though there would be more competition to get on those teams.

“The board tried to preserve programs but was also aware of all associated costs that go with having a team,” Baker said Wednesday.

Additionally, the positions of a support service worker, an educational technician and a library educational technician would be cut. Baker said two school buses, valued at $90,000 apiece, also were cut from the budget, and some maintenance projects were deferred.

“Transportation and facilities and special education took the deepest cuts in the budget reductions,” Baker said.

The latest enrollment figures indicated there are 2,124 students attending schools in SAD 49. In order to transport most of those students, the district’s fleet of buses travels over 1,600 miles a day. Boyden said maintaining the buses, staffing drivers and buying fuel are all significant costs.

Boyden noted that over the past 10 years, all schools in the district have received maintenance and facilities improvements. Albion Elementary has received $285,000 worth of improvements; Benton Elementary, $965,000; Clinton Elementary, $627,000; Fairfield Primary, $117,000; Lawrence Junior High School, $264,000; and Lawrence High School, $2.1 million in repairs over the 10-year period.

On Wednesday, Baker said the board will vote on the proposal at its meeting on Thursday. Additionally, the board will vote on whether to include an article in the budget to address unanticipated state funding coming in later. Districts across the state have lost revenue from the state in its allocation of funds to cover essential programs and services.

“We have hope for additional funding, but we can’t move forward banking on it,” Boyden said.

The largest line item of the budget covers regular instruction, which is proposed at roughly $10.8 million, nearly a $400,000 increase over the current figure. The next-largest figure covers facility maintenance, which is proposed at just under $4 million. This is lower than the current year’s figure by about $124,000. After that, the next-largest is the proposal for special education, at roughly $3.8 million. This, too, is a reduction of more than $62,000.

Boyden said a 1.5 percent increase is consistent with past budget increases over the years. On average, budget increases over the past five years have been less than 1.5 percent. In that same time frame, state funding decreased by 6 percent.

The latest proposal recommends using a one-time allocation of $300,000 to offset a portion of the local share of the increase. That money is coming from a refund the district received from the Maine Public Employees Retirement System for overpaying over the course of several years. The remaining $500,000 of that repayment is being proposed to go into a capital reserve budget, where it would remain until voters approve a project that the money would be used to fund.

Not included in the overall budget is the $140,000 budget for adult education. Baker said excluding adult education from the final budget figure conforms with a state budgeting model.

After voting on the budget, the board will meet next week to sign the warrant items, Baker said. The district budget meeting — a town meeting-style gathering where residents vote item by item on the budget — is scheduled for May 15. After that, there will be a validation referendum on June 13 for residents to vote by secret ballot on the final budget that comes out of the May 15 meeting.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

[email protected]

Twitter: @colinoellis

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